WASHINGTON – FaceApp went viral again this week, as pictures of people aging themselves and altering their faces with filters spread across social media. The Democratic National Committee, however, still smarting from the Russia-linked 2016 cyberattacks that resulted in the leaking of DNC emails, sent an email to Democratic presidential campaigns telling them not to use the app, CNN first reported on Tuesday.
“This app allows users to perform different transformations on photos of people, such as aging the person in the picture. Unfortunately, this novelty is not without risk: FaceApp was developed by Russians,” said a memo from DNC security officer Bob Lord. CBS also confirmed the memo.
Lord recommended campaigns and their staff “delete the app immediately” because “the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks.”
Security experts noted the app was owned by a company based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and included terms of service that granted FaceApp a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content.”
FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told the Washington Post in an interview that “most” photos uploaded to FaceApp were deleted after 48 hours and assured the Post that the Russian government did not have access to users’ data.
Congress got involved on Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calling for an investigation into the app because it could “pose national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”
Schumer asked the FBI to determine whether the data uploaded to FaceApp “may be finding its way into the hands of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government.” He also requested the FTC “consider whether there are adequate safeguards in place to prevent the privacy of Americans using this application.”
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